Kristoff: Motorbikes should take off-course detours to improve rider safety

Norwegian hoping to get Classics campaign back on track at De Panne

Alexander Kristoff has said that race motorbikes should look to use off-course routes in order to pass riders during races. Speaking to Cyclingnews, the Norwegian said that the narrow roads in Belgium exacerbate an already difficult issue.

His comments come in the wake of Antoine Demoitié’s death after the Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider was hit by a race motorbike following a crash at Gent-Wevelgem. The team has refused to blame the driver involved but the incident has increased the calls for better safety regulations around in-race vehicles.

“It’s really sad news. He could do nothing about it; he was run down from behind by the motorbike. With the motorbikes in the pack it’s really dangerous with the small roads,” Kristoff told Cyclingnews just before the start of stage 1 of the Driedaagse De Panne, where a minute's silence was observed in tribute to Demoitié and Daan Myngheer, another young Belgian rider who lost his life on Monday

“Especially here in Belgium we have so many narrow roads that it is very difficult for motorbikes to pass but there are a lot of detours that they can take, and shortcuts, and they should try to use them more than staying in the pack. There are a lot of motorbikes in the pack and sometimes they pass and it’s really not possible to pass there in the middle of the pack on the small roads. Sometimes they are dangerous situations.”

Recovering from illness

Kristoff wasn’t at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, as he sat out the race after falling ill over the weekend, and De Panne is his first race back. The opening stage will give him a chance to see how well he has recovered but defending the overall title he won last year - thanks to three wins from four stages - will be a tough ask.

“I feel healthy for the start now. I hope the legs are good but maybe we’ll see,” said the Katusha rider. “That was the plan [to go for the overall victory] but with the last days in mind it’s going to be difficult. I will try to do a good race. Today is usually an important day for the overall classification so we will see after today.”

Kristoff’s Classics campaign hasn’t quite gone to plan so far, and he struggled at E3 Harelbeke on Friday, finishing nearly seven minutes down on the day’s winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky). He rarely comes outside of the top 10 at E3 Harelbeke and his performance raised some concern ahead of his defence of his Tour of Flanders crown this coming Sunday. He hopes that the next three days will help him get into race shape.

“For sure I was a little bit worried. Harelbeke was horrible and then I got sick. Hopefully it was just the sickness that made it feel horrible,” he said. “For now, I will race here and get through three days of good racing. Hopefully I will get sharp for Flanders."

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